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Schools try longer days, academic years

The program is an effort to give low-income students access to after-school-type activities.

Kids may groan when their parents hire a tutor or drag them to music lessons. But some educators say that extra learning gives them a leg up on students who can’t afford after-school activities. So today, school and government officials, nonprofits and the Ford Foundation announced that almost 20,000 students will spend more time in school, starting next fall. 

“The question we have is can we give all children the opportunity that our most affluent kids have,” said Luis Ubinas, president of the Ford Foundation.

To answer that question, the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time and Learning have signed up dozens of public schools for a pilot program. They can opt for a longer school day or year.

Randi Weingarten heads the American Federation of Teachers union. She’s backing the program, albeit cautiously.

“What we need to do is to think of it as a better day as opposed to a longer day or more of the same,” she said.

More of the same being constant drills to prepare for standardized tests -- what educators call drill and kill. Pedro Noguera teaches at NYU’s education school.

“It kills the brain cells," he says. “Kids get bored to death in school. They’re sitting still too long. They’re not actively involved in learning.”

Noguera says there need to be clear guidelines, so kids get extra classes in art or music or more time at recess to help them concentrate during their extra hours at school -- and catch up with the kids who have private tutors.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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